The next morning Meri woke up feeling much better about everything. After leaving out food for Jack, she’d escaped to her room, where she’d had a bath and a good cry. Some of her tears had been about her brother, but a lot of them had been for herself. For the geek she’d been and the losses she’d suffered.

After Hunter had died, their father had totally lost it. He’d been less than useless to her. Within a year he’d started dating nineteen-year-olds, and in the nine years since, his girlfriends had stayed depressingly young.

She’d been on her own and she’d survived. Wasn’t that what mattered? That she’d managed to get the help she’d needed to move forward and thrive?

She turned on her clock’s radio and rocked her hips to the disco music that blasted into the room. She was sorry she’d missed the disco years-the music had such a driving beat. Of course, she was a total spaz on the dance floor, but what she lacked in style and grace she made up for in enthusiasm.

After brushing out her hair, she braided it, then dressed in a sports bra, tank top and another pair of skimpy shorts. Ankle socks and athletic shoes completed her outfit.

Humming “We Are Family” under her breath, she left her room and prepared to implement the next part of her plan for revenge.

Jack was in the kitchen. She walked up to him and smiled.

“Morning,” she said, reaching past him for the pot of coffee. She made sure she leaned against him rather than going around. “How did you sleep?”

His dark eyes flickered slightly, but his expression never changed. “Fine.”

“Good. Me, too.”

She poured the coffee, then took a sip, looking at him over the mug.

“So,” she said. “A whole month. That’s a long time. Whatever will we do with it?”

“Not what you have planned.”

She allowed herself a slight smile. “I remember you saying that before. Did you always repeat yourself? I remember you being a whole lot more articulate. Of course, I was younger then, and one looks at one’s elders with the idealism of youth.”

He nearly choked on his coffee. “Elders?”

“Time has been passing, Jack. You’re, what, nearly forty?”

“I’m thirty-two and you know it.”

“Oh, right. Thirty-two. Time has been a challenge for you, hasn’t it?”

She enjoyed baiting him too much, she thought, knowing she was being totally evil and unable to help herself. The truth was, Jack looked amazing. Fit, sexy-a man in his prime. The good news was that sleeping with him wouldn’t be a hardship.

“You gave up on seducing me?” he asked.

“Not at all. But this is fun, too.”

“I’m not sleeping with you.”

She glanced around the kitchen, then looked back at him. “I’m sorry, did you say something? I wasn’t listening.”

“You’re a pain in the ass.”

“But it’s a darned nice ass, isn’t it?” She turned to show him, patted the curve, then faced front again. “Okay, go get changed. I’ll take you to the nearest gym. You can get a thirty-day membership. Then we’ll work out together.”

“There’s no equipment here?”

She smiled. “I guess Hunter didn’t think of everything after all. It’s a good thing I’m around.”

He stared at her. “You think you’re in charge?”


He put down his mug, then moved close and stared into her eyes. “Be careful, Meri. You’re playing a game you don’t know how to win. I’m out of your league and we both know it.”

A challenge? Was he crazy? She always won and she would this time. Although there was something about the way he looked at her that made her shiver. Something that told her he was not a man to be toyed with.

But he was just a man, she reminded herself. The sooner she got him into bed, the quicker she could get on with her life.

Jack followed Meri into the large gym overlooking the lake. The facility was light and clean, with only a few people working out. Probably because it was midday, he thought as he took in the new equipment and mentally planned his workout.

Back in Dallas, he worked out in his private gym, built to his specifications. But this would do for now.

“So we can circuit-train together,” she said brightly, standing close and gazing up at him with a teasing smile. “I’m great at spotting.”

She was trying to push his buttons. He was determined not to react, regardless of what she said or did. Meri was playing a game that could be dangerous to her. He might not have taken care of her the way he should have, but he had looked out for her. That wasn’t going to stop just because she was determined to prove a point.

“Want to warm up with some cardio first?” she asked. “We can race. I’ll even give you a head start.”

“I’m not going to need it,” he told her as he headed over to the treadmills, not bothering to see if she followed.

“That’s what you think.”

She stepped onto the machine next to his and set it for a brisk warm-up pace. He did the same, not bothering to look at her speed.

“You didn’t used to exercise,” he said conversationally a few minutes later as he broke into a jog.

Meri punched a few buttons on her treadmill and matched his speed. “I know. I was much more into food than anything else. Not surprising-food was my only friend.”

“We were friends,” he said before he could stop himself. He’d liked Meri-she was Hunter’s little sister. She’d been like family to him.

“Food was the only friend I could depend on,” she said as she cranked up her treadmill again. She was breathing a little harder but barely breaking a sweat. “It didn’t disappear when I needed it most.”

No point in defending himself. She was right-he’d taken off right after Hunter’s funeral. He’d been too devastated by loss and guilt to stick around. A few months later he’d realized he needed to make sure Meri was all right. So he’d hired a P.I. to check in on her every few months. The quarterly reports had given him the basics about her life but nothing specific. Later, when he’d started his own company, he’d gotten his people to keep tabs on her and he’d learned a lot more about her. He’d learned that she’d grown up into a hell of a woman. Obviously she hadn’t needed him around, taking care of things.

“The downside of food as a friend,” she continued, “is that there’s an ugly side effect. Still, I couldn’t seem to stop eating. Then one day I made some new friends and I stopped needing the food so much.” She grinned. “Okay, friends and some serious therapy.”

“You were in therapy?” The reports hadn’t mentioned that.

“For a couple of years. I worked through my issues. I’m too smart and weird to ever be completely normal, but these days I know how to pass.”

“You’re not weird,” he said, knowing better than to challenge her brain. Meri had always been on the high side of brilliant.

“A lot you know,” she said. “But I like who I am now. I accept the good points and the bad.”

There were plenty of good points, he thought, doing his best not to look at her trim body. She had plenty of curves, all in the right places.

They continued to jog next to each other. After another five minutes, Meri increased the speed again and went into a full-out run. Jack’s competitive side kicked in. He increased not only the speed but the incline.

“You think you’re so tough,” she muttered, her breath coming fast and hard now.

“You’ll never win this battle,” he told her. “I have long legs and more muscle mass.”

“That just means more weight to haul around.”

She ran a couple more minutes, then hit the stop button and straddled the tread. After wiping her face and gulping water, she went back onto the treadmill but at a much slower pace. He ran a few more minutes-because he could-then started his cooldown.

Вы читаете In Bed With The Devil
Добавить отзыв


Вы можете отметить интересные вам фрагменты текста, которые будут доступны по уникальной ссылке в адресной строке браузера.

Отметить Добавить цитату